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Battling Big Tech Ad Diversion is Big NAB Priority

The National Association of Broadcasters has circulated its agenda among policymakers as the new Administration settles in with a flurry of activity and stemming what it calls the undermining of local news by Big Tech is high on the agenda.

NAB argues that as the ad market has become dominated by online platforms--like Google and Facebook--that diversion of ad revenue from local broadcast has turned Big Tech into a gatekeeper, and one that does not serve the public, as broadcasters are licensed to do.

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"Local journalism is now at risk due to this unchecked competitive position held by a handful of dominant digital players," it told policymakers. 

Given that threat, it said, lawmakers must consider the antitrust concerns raised by those digital platforms and "support laws and policies that recognize and uphold broadcasters' unique and essential role in democracy and a free press," citing NAB President Gordon Smith's testimony before House Judiciary during its investigation into online platform market power.

On the broadcast ownership front--NAB just this week argued in the Supreme Court for the restoration of the FCC's deregulation of local ownership rules--the association said the policymakers need to support the FCC's "modernization of radio and TV ownership rules," though the Democratic FCC under President Joe Biden is unlikely to continue that deregulatory trajectory.

Another big priority is to head off efforts by pay TV providers for changes to the retransmission consent regime, which cable operators say favor broadcasters. Not surprisingly, NAB sees it differently.

"[S]ome pay-TV companies are aggressively lobbying the government to upend this free-market process to pad their profit margins," it said. "Eliminating stations’ ability to negotiate for the value of their signals would mean less choice for viewers and fewer resources for stations to dedicate to local news, public affairs programming, coverage of emergency weather events and community activities."

Other priorities include that no broadcaster is harmed in the repack of earth stations after the C-Band auction, that the government "reject unlicensed spectrum giveaways" to tech companies--Microsoft in particular has sought more TV white spaces for broadband--and that Congress reinstate the diversity tax certificate, which NAB said will help increase station ownership diversity.